By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Westbrook Christian notched the first and last points in its Class 3A, Region 6 game against Gaston, but other highlights were few and far between for the home squad last Friday (Oct. 14) in Rainbow City.
The Bulldogs erupted for 53 points – including 26 in a 4:32 span in the second quarter – en route to a 53-10 victory that clinched Gaston’s fourth straight playoff berth. The Bulldogs have now qualified for the postseason in 12 of the 13 seasons that Swane Morris has been head coach.
Gaston’s defense almost outscored the offense, generating 26 points and four touchdowns. In all, the Bulldogs turned six Westbrook turnovers into 42 points.
Alexander Allen was a top defensive standout for Gaston (6-3, 5-1), as the senior cornerback returned two interceptions for touchdowns.
“We talked about getting a fast start, and ended up doing that,” said Morris. “Those non-offensive touchdowns are real nice when you can get them. Our offense didn’t have the ball much, but when they did we scored, so I’m very pleased with their effort. But our defense just played tremendously tonight.”
Most of the Gaston starters played only in the first half. J.D. Pope rushed twice for 77 yards and a touchdown, while D.J. Pope gained 25 yards and two TDS off five carries. K.J. Hollingsworth added 40 yards on four attempts. Hollingsworth also was 3 for 4 in passing for 38 yards.
The game’s opening series was a successful one for the Warriors (3-5, 2-4). Quarterback Tyler Comeau completed all three of his passing attempts, including a 20-yarder to Caleb Barden that helped bring the hosts to the Bulldog 6. Declan Godfrey’s 26-yard field goal gave Westbrook a 3-0 lead at the 7:03 mark of the first quarter.
Comeau soon left the game with a leg injury, however, and the floodgates soon burst for the Warriors (3-5, 2-4). On the next play from scrimmage, J.D. Pope rambled for a 76-yard touchdown, and Hollingsworth’s PAT provided the visitors the lead for good at 6:43.
Westbrook was at its own 19 later in the period when Allen stepped in front of a pass and took it to the house from 25 yards out for a 13-3 advantage at 2:07.
The Warriors’ second miscue of the night resulted in Gaston’s third score. Cameron Peaccock recovered a fumble at the Bulldog 40, and a 25-yard run by Hollingsworth brought the ball inside Westbrook territory. The series was capped by Hollingsworth’s 1-yard TD keeper at 9:50 of the second quarter. Hollingsworth’s two-point conversion pass to Allen made it 21-3 in favor of Gaston.
The Bulldogs padded their advantage just two plays later after Allen recovered a fumble at the Warrior 15. Kameron Hawkins did the honors from 14 yards out to increase the lead to 24 points at 9:04.
Westbrook went three-and-out on the following drive, and a 30-yard pass from Hollingsworth to Allen put Gaston yet again in prime scoring position.
D.J. Pope found the end zone from the Warrior 6 for a 34-3 advantage at 5:40.
Allen got his second pick-six of the evening on the second play of the ensuing Westbrook possession, making it 40-3 with 4:05 left in the first half.
Peacock came up with an interception two plays into the next Warriors drive, pushing the advantage to 47-3 at 2:50.
Gaston then closed out the first-half scoring on Hawkins’ scoop-and-score with 43 seconds left.
Westbrook score its lone touchdown when Blake Young returned a punt 45 yards in the third quarter.
Hunter Grimes led the Warriors in rushing with 66 yards on 10 carries. Garrett Perkins added 41 yards on 10 attempts.
“It’s not about me getting [to the playoffs]; you want each set of kids to experience [the playoffs],” said Morris. “It’s special when they get that chance. We’ll just go out and line up and do our jobs next week.”
Gaston finishes up region play this Friday (Oct. 21) at home against No. 1 Fyffe, while Westbrook hosts region rival Ider.